A column about history, culture, policy, and things in between.
It has been a few years since I first wrote of the odious creep of heroin, and other opiate derivatives into the lives of our suburban youth.
Rock music of the late 1960's and 70's was replete with lyrics and imagery of drug use, and the Rock 'n Roll scene of that era was littered with those who fell in their dance with that particular devil: Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Duane Allman, Danny Whitten, and Graham Parsons to name just a few.
And while there were hundreds of songs that dealt with such topics, I think the best of them was Heroin, by Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground. The song needs a few listenings for its impact to settle; its opening guitar, shrouded and brooding, drags you in slowly. And the discordant, fractured sound later in the track speak to Reed's personal dance with that devil.
I've always thought that the author of such hits as Walk on the Wild Side and Sweet Jane was as much a poet as a musician, and this much lesser known song speaks with searingly penetrating lyrics, one line of which proclaims:
Cuz when I'm rushin on my run,
And I feel just like Jesus' son.........
I obviously don't know the circumstances of his song writing. But in my mind's eye I see him alone with an accoustic guitar, in a shade-drawn, darkened room. Lingering somewhere between the "rushin" of his high, where mental and physical capacities seem Olympianly unlimited, and the crusty, cellar-dwelling lethargy of the "down", when physical existence seems unendurable, he captured the essence of what this drug was in his life.
Cause it makes me feel like I'm a man.
When I put a spike into my veins..........
When I was young heroin was not a drug of choice; it was a word, an image, the exclusive playground of tortured artists, urban blues club hangers-on, and the aforementioned rock stars. The suggestion that it might be a siren call beckoning the teenagers of Milwaukee's North Shore and western suburbs would have dumbfounded us. But Waukesha County headlines as recent as a few weeks ago have reminded us that opiate derivatives, prescription drugs, and heroin are here - right here amongst the shaded boulevards of Barker, Calhoun, and Watertown Plank. These drugs are being dealt, purchased, and used EVERY DAY in our community - by kids.
Many teenagers and young adults enter this labyrinth via the front door of prescription drugs. On the surface, they are more innocuous, and kids who wouldn't think of "spiking their veins", casually swallow an oxycodone, perhaps first hastily proferred in a parking lot, or at a party. It's too LATE at that juncture for them to consider the dilemma, and snared in the crucible of uncertainty, ignorance, and peer pressure, too many give the wrong response. Kids need to be prepared to answer this question long before they ever find themselves in that circumstance. And then unfolds the tragic progression..........Having felt the "juice" of their first run, many naturally want some more. And in their wretched, utterly lonely search for the next glimmer, some turn to heroin, as it is less expensive and more available than the more "acceptable" prescription alternatives. In a very short while they are hooked, addicted, and all but consumed. And then, as Keith Richards recalls, "it doesn't matter what you want, or what you think is right. All that matters is, how am I gonna get some dope today"?
The Addiction Research Council and Your Choice Program are agencies that offer help to our community and our families in the fight against the evil that is teenage drug use. Last March I had the pleasure of introducing my friend Sarah Nielsen, a long time Brookfield resident and courageous advocate for our youth, to a capacity crowd in the Brookfield East High School cafeteria. I remember thinking as I shared my comments, how encouraging it was to see Moms and Dads there with Middle School aged students. That's the age to start engaging youth on these harsh realities, and having the difficult conversations with them. Sarah and the Elmbrook Parent Leadership Council went on to present the Your Choice Program, and I know everyone who was there that evening was impacted.
There is no better weapon in the war against illicit drug use than the watchful eyes of parents who are ready to insert themselves into the lives of their kids, and willing to assert their authority over those same lives. But there are other tools to use in this fight as well; tools like Your Choice and the Addiction Research Council. Ignoring the problem, or pretending that it doesn't exist west of 124th Street, is tatamount to sending your child into the world with a target on their back.
Please take a moment to click on the link below, and find out about how you can help Your Choice and the Addiction Research Council continue their good work in our community.
Please take a few minutes to vote on line or by text; this private funding could be put to tremendous use right here in our own back yard.
And whether you do or don't vote at the above link, please take time to talk to your kids, nieces, nephews, and grand children about this stuff.